I wish I had the knowledge and insight to write a post like this, but it’s really from my favorite fundraising expert, Gail Perry.
First, please take the time to read Gail’s full article, What Every Board Member Needs to Know About Fundraising. It doesn’t matter if you aren’t a board member of a nonprofit. It doesn’t even matter if you don’t work for a nonprofit, because most of us give to and volunteer with nonprofits. So all of us ought to know how nonprofits make their money – at least the part that comes from private contributions – and the challenges they face in doing this.
I’ll summarize Gail’s main points here and add my two cents for each.
1. Fundraising is no longer a guessing game driven by people’s personal ideas and preferences. It’s now based on data and planning. My two cents: Your donor database is your most precious fundraising asset. This is why all of us in my department are going to learn Raiser’s Edge, our donor database, and become diligent about entering any useful information we learn about our donors.
2. Give your donors fabulous “customer service” and they will sustain you for the long run. My two cents: It takes a lot of thought and effort to offer individualized attention as well as group events and communications. And it requires the data mentioned in point #1.
3. Renewing current and lapsed donors is the easiest money to raise. Busting your butt to bring in new donors is the hardest money to raise. My two cents: This is one of the reasons I don’t care much for crowdfunding. In the long run, serious donor cultivation brings in a lot more money than casual transactions.
4. The most profitable fundraising strategy of all is face-to-face asks of individuals, corporations, foundations, or organizations. That’s where the big money is today. My two cents: This takes training and careful planning, plus lots of time and patience. Boards can be trained to do it right and with their community connections and status, this is how they become a lynchpin in the fundraising strategy.
5. Your organization’s fundraising staff and programs are NOT a “cost center;” they are a “revenue generating machine.” And when you invest more dollars in your fundraising program you can expect to see an increase in new revenue. My two cents: It takes money to make money.
6. Every organization has its own unique fundraising program, based on its culture, its history, and its opportunities. My two cents: Look at what has worked and what hasn’t in the past. And pay attention to ways of fundraising that really “feel right” for your organization. We are re-evaluating our event strategy to be more “mission-driven” – that is, more compatible with the kind of work we actually do in the community.
7. Board members need to put their money where their mouth is. Every board member needs to make their own proud, personal gift each year. And they need to include a bequest in their will – or make their nonprofit a partial beneficiary of their IRA. My two cents: Board members set the example, and they can’t ask others for contributions if they don’t support the organization themselves. Period.
8. The entire organization should support philanthropy joyfully. My two cents: I’ve endured some snobbery and lots of misunderstanding about fundraising from my colleagues within nonprofits. This has to stop. We need to develop a culture of fundraising in which every person in the organization has some role to play : talking to donors, helping at events, stuffing envelopes, etc. Their jobs depend on it.
Please go read the article full now.